Yo-Yo Ma performs Saturday at a Pittsfield vaccination clinic in a video screen capture. (Photo: Berkshire Community College via Instagram)

Cambridge’s resident celebrities are low-key, but renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has popped up lately in a flurry of charitable work: performing Thursday as part of the Cambridge Community Foundation’s free We are Cambridge spring gathering, and signing on as part of author Alice Hoffman’s annual Pink Pages event planned for May 5 to benefit the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital.

In addition, reader Alex Wang spotted Ma performing as part of a Friday benefit for the Royal East restaurant, which is reportedly struggling to survive the slowdown in business caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Violinist Lynn Chang, violist Hsin-Yun Huang and others are also performing as part of the two-hour fundraiser for the 782 Main St., The Port, restaurant, and there’s an optional banquet-at-home component. Information is here.)

But what’s suddenly drawn national attention to Ma was an impromptu Saturday concert at a Berkshire Community College vaccination clinic in Pittsfield, where the cellist got his second dose of Moderna vaccine and sat for a required 15-minute observation period – with cello. (Ma also keeps a home in the Berkshires.) Seated against a padded gym wall, appropriately distanced and masked from other waiting shot recipients, Ma performed “Ave Maria” and Bach’s Prelude in G major and received warm applause afterward.

Social media response has also been effusive. “What a magnificent man – and his talent,” a Twitter user identified as Eleanor Ruby Moon said. “He’s really generous with his time and talents,” another user commented.

After his performance, Ma stood, waved briefly to acknowledge the applause and packed up his cello to return home.


  • Sign up for the Royal East Spring Fundraising Gala here.
  • Sign up for Pink Pages benefiting Mount Auburn Hospital here.
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